Last week, Cybera submitted a brief to the federal government’s Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology (INDU). The INDU committee is currently studying the accessibility and affordability of telecommunications services in Canada.
The INDU committee previously studied broadband affordability and access in 2017. That investigation produced the Broadband Connectivity in Rural Canada: Overcoming the Digital Divide report. As Cybera mentioned in our recent submission, the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated how essential access to high-speed internet — at an affordable rate — is for Canadians’ economic, social and mental wellbeing. As such, we asked the committee to consider solutions that would address the issue of broadband access immediately, rather than through longer-term legislative changes that would require years to complete.
In our brief, we asked policymakers to consider near-term solutions that could bolster access and affordability. These include:
- Structuring future and current funding programs to favour community-based broadband projects
- Regulating wholesale high-speed internet services to enable independent providers to offer lower-cost broadband services in a fair and timely manner
- Fix the problems in existing pole access regulations, which currently allow large Internet Service Providers to delay and overcharge broadband builds by competitors
We also referenced longer term legislative changes that policymakers should consider, including restructuring the Telecommunications Act to soften wording around the reliance on “market forces” and “facilities-based competition” for broadband deployment. Cybera’s full recommendations for long-term legislative changes in telecommunications services can be found in Cybera’s submission to the 2019 Broadcasting and Telecommunications Legislative Review Panel.
The current INDU Committee study will be completed later this year, with its final report submitted to the federal government shortly after that. Stay tuned for Cybera’s response to the committee’s final report and recommendations when it is made public!